RIO de JANEIRO - His eyes have the sparkle of a child’s and he gives off the enthusiasm of someone who has just kicked a ball for the very first time. He runs towards us when he sees us coming, dressing in Inter colours from head to toe. His white hair stands out against his tanned skin. He’s slender, with just a bit of a belly. He used to play for Vasco da Gama, the historic team from Rio de Janeiro, and he’s been called Campeão (champion) ever since.
Maybe 50 years have passed, but his passion for the sport hasn’t gone anywhere. “From my very first day with Inter Campus, I’ve coached generations of kids as if they were my own grandchildren,” he says, “becoming a reference point in each of their lives.”
We’re here for our usual training, but it only takes a few seconds to realise that we’ll be the ones learning something today. We put the manuals away and just watch his training session: not the most orthodox in the world, but full of joy nonetheless. He turns his eyes to us full of pride, excited to show that he’s still in great shape. The pitch is filled with about thirty young children, who otherwise would have found themselves on the street. They play without any ambition, for the fun alone. Yet there’s an order to things, respect, hard work: it’s Campeão who dictates the rules.
We don’t know how his nickname came about, but judging from the spirit he shows, we could take a pretty good guess.